Goa needs mining and tourism

By Harshvardhan Bhatkuly

Outside of cinema theatres, I am not a great believer of conspiracy theories. But even a hard core non-believer like me is compelled to stop and think – if there is a larger game at play when it comes to the fortunes of Goan economy. I am also not the one who talks about the impending doom for businesses in the state, which is currently the topic of discussion in most cocktail circuits. But boy, am I worried about the markets in Goa. And why should I not be? The existence of many small enterprises depends on the health of the state’s economy and the various players who engage themselves in the entrepreneurial domain within the state. The two main industries in Goa are faced with great threat.

For one unfortunate reason or another, there has been a complete lockdown of the administrative machinery in the state. Everything seems to be in a state of limbo.

Mining has been clamped down by a Supreme Court directive. And although there have been numerous representations to the powers-that-be in Delhi – to bring in an enabling amendment or a law – to restart mining, not much progress has happened on that front.

My hunch tells me, that this being an election year, the ruling disposition cannot risk the ire of the electorate in mining affected Goa. As politically astute as it is, the ruling party prizes the two parliamentary seats that Goa has given it. Some rabbit will be brought out of the hat to resume mining and placate some ruffled feathers. This will be done at the correct politically opportune moment. And all will be forgotten.

Now comes the question of the other industry that Goa depends on – tourism. This is the time of the year when a large mass of Goa’s enterprise looks up to what we know as ‘season time.’ The stakeholders of the tourism pie are all set to give a fresh coat of paint to their entrepreneurial vehicles. Hotels, restaurants, shacks will look up to bring in the custom come October.

A recent judicial pronouncement by the National Green Tribunal has me worried, though.

The Order says that “a dwelling unit of the traditional coastal community is permissible under CRZ Notification, 1991 which have been accorded formal approval by the concerned authority under the said notification and such dwelling units were to be regularized. However, such regularization was subjected to two conditions. Firstly that they are not be used for any commercial activities. Secondly, they are not to be sold or transferred to any non-traditional coastal community.”

Taking the above position, the NGT says that “it is clear that a structure which has been raised prior to 1991 is to be regularized subject to the condition that they are being used as dwelling houses and by traditional coastal community. In a situation where such structures have come into being after 1991, though may be used for dwelling purpose, are not to be regularized.” The Order further precludes any commercial activity in such dwelling houses within the CRZ area. “In light of the relevant provision of law, a structure being used for commercial purposes whether prior to 1991 or subsequent to it cannot be regularized or allowed to be continued to run,” mandates the Order.

It is unclear what stand the shack owners or other hotel and restaurant owners would take, in view of the above pronouncement. But, as things stand today, if this Order is not challenged before the Apex Court, a lot of establishments would be treading on illegal territory, in so far as running their commercial establishments within the CRZ areas are concerned.

Coming back to my conspiracy theory idea, I am really wondering if these are just extraordinary pieces of bad luck, or is there something larger that my mind cannot put a finger on?

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